I’m From Driftwood has featured a number of fascinating stories from members of the Black LGBT community to honor Black History Month. One in particular caught our attention: The video featuring 70-year-old Philadelphia resident Tyrone Smith, who recalled the dark days of the 1980s HIV/AIDS epidemic. Mr. Smith remembers the many losses, but adds that the epidemic served as a catalyst to bring together Philadelphia's historic Black LGBT community.
Watch it AFTER THE JUMP ...
Mr. Smith shares a vintage black and white photo and says:
One of the things I want to share with you today is some of the history of black gay men here in Philadelphia. On this calendar there were a group of men who were a part of a movement which was called Unity Incorporated which was the first group to deal with AIDS and HIV for black, gay men in the city of Philadelphia. But as I look at this picture that we took on top of a rooftop, so many of these brothers are not here.
All of these young men made a contribution: Arnold Jackson, Bill Jackson, all of these boys, and Kenneth they all made a great contribution of giving their lives but out of that forged what we have now as the Black Gay men’s leadership counsel. People in the rooms where differences are being made, openly affirming their gayness. Prior to this, this epidemic, that was not happening. So I think that if there’s anything good that’s come about, it’s the fact that we were able to come together, organize and move forward to where we are now in the year 2012.
I’m From Driftwood is a critically-acclaimed oral history project that features submissions from LGBT people across the globe. Several other notable posts by Black LGBTs in recent weeks include Amber Hikes' story of coming out as bisexual to her mother, transgender actress Laverne Cox's emotional story of being bullied and film director Stephen Winter discusses growing up biracial and gay.
Watch Tyrone Smith's video AFTER THE JUMP ...